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The Political Gap: Campaigning and Serving as a Woman

Hillary Rodham Clinton delivering her victory speech at the Manhattan Center Studios, following the New York 2008 primary

Women currently make up 18.5 percent of the U.S. Congress. Yet Iowa is one of only two states that has never elected a woman to Congress nor had a female governor.

This hour, a look at the gender gap in politics – Why do women run for office less than their male counterparts? When they are in office, how do they govern?

Some highlights from today's guests:

Three reasons for the gender gap in political ambition: from Jennifer Lawless, Director of the Women & Politics Institute and Professor of Government at American University

  1. “Women are far less likely than men, even when they have the exact same credentials, the exact same resumes, to consider themselves qualified to run for office.”
  2. “Women are far more likely than men to rely on their self-doubt; and when they think that they’re not qualified, not run.”
  3. “Women are far less likely than men, even when they operate in the same professional circles, to be tapped to run for office by party leaders, elected officials, or even family members, colleagues, and friends.”

How the media covers female candidates: from Dianne Bystrom, Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University

  • “While differences [in coverage] are disappearing at the lower levels [of office], they are still there when a woman runs for their party’s nomination for president.”

How the campaigns of Sarah Palin and Hillary Rodham Clinton were covered:

  • “Every study I’ve seen has documented that they received both very sexist, but very different news coverage [during their campaigns].”

Examining "women's issues" as a female representative of the Republican Party: from Mary Kramer, former Republican Iowa State Senator (1990-2003), elected President of the Iowa Senate in 1997, served as U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean (2004-2006)

  • “When people say ‘you’re Republican’ they make an assumption that you also have the same positions on [abortion and gay marriage] and that’s not always true. So I think we have to really guard against stereotyping [and thinking that] ‘if you must be this, then you must believe that way.’”

The benefits to electing women to office: from Kathryn Pearson, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota

  1. “Political science research shows that women are more legislatively active, if you look at the bills sponsored by congresswomen and congressmen.”
  2. “If you look at speeches during debate on important legislation, women are more likely to go to the house floor and speak about legislation.”
  3. “Women are very active in committee.”

Incumbency as a road block that could soon be overcome: from Mary Ellen Miller, Executive Director of “50-50 in 2020”

  • “With open seats this year, it clearly is evident with all the women running that it’s the issue of incumbency that may be the biggest thing [holding Iowa women] back... Because now we have women running for Senate and also in several House districts in high numbers... so we are very optimistic about the possibilities.”

The University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center will host a day-long symposium on the subject of women in politics, featuring several of the guests on today's show:

“Women in Politics 2014: Historic & Current Perspectives” at the Old Capitol Museum Senate Chambers - Friday, April 18th, 2014 8:15 AM to 5:00 PM

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River